Gulfport Seabees set to leave for Haiti

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport Seabees are sending help to Haiti.  About 85 members of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 will be soon be headed to that devastated country. Their immediate mission will include clearing roads and helping restore communications.

Many of the Seabees who'll be helping earthquake victims in Haiti are no strangers to natural disasters. They survived Hurricane Katrina and endured its aftermath. Their commander said that's one reason his troops are so anxious to offer assistance.

The first task is making certain the heavy equipment and construction gear is ready to roll. Seabees are well known for their building skills, but their mission in Haiti will initially involve clearing debris.

"The main mission areas are opening up some lines of communication, route clearance and such to allow that aid to flow into the needed areas," said Commander Jay Mitchell of NMCB 7. "Also going to have the capability to do some utility survey as well."

These Seabees had short notice about the humanitarian deployment to Haiti. Part of their training involves being flexible and adapting quickly to circumstances.

"These guys and gals got the word we're going to send you out the door in 48 hours. So, they're doing what they can, preparing their families, making the sacrifice they need to. They understand a lot of folks need our help down there," said Commander Mitchell.

These troops also have a unique and personal understanding of dealing with disaster.  Many survived Hurricane Katrina and endured its aftermath.

"This battalion, especially, has lived through Katrina. A lot of personal,painful experiences from that. And they've come through that and I think having that personal experience prepares them well for a circumstance like this," said Mitchell.

Commander Mitchell said he's confident his troops are up to the task. They'll be doing the kind of work they train for every day.

From a personal standpoint, he's eager to be a part of the helping hand reaching out to a nation in such despair.

"It's frustrating to sit back and see folks that need that assistance, knowing that we have the resources and capabilities to go help them. And it's a great opportunity for us to go do what we train to do every day," said Commander Mitchell.

Mitchell said the Seabees will begin flying out this weekend. They'll be landing at a UN-secured airfield, then set up a self-sustaining Seabee camp. The deployment to Haiti could last up to six months.

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